Contemporary Art

Innovator of Form: Contemporary Artist Tsuyoshi Maekawa at S|2 London

By Sotheby's

B orn in Osaka in 1936, Tsuyoshi Maekawa is celebrated as a core member of the Gutai Art Association from 1962 to 1972 and as an innovator of form in his own right thereafter. His works largely involve fabric and paint on canvas, as he invites the viewer to contemplate the materiality of his paintings’ surface. S|2 London will feature an exhibition of his works from 20 July-21 September.

Founded in 1954, the Gutai Art Association sought to rebel against the climate of nationalism in Japan and promote a radical and individual form of expressionism. One of the most notable examples is Kazuo Shiraga’s performance-painting piece, Challenging Mud (1955), in which Shiraga threw himself into a pile of clay, staging a pile of clay as an expanded canvas and recasting his half-naked body as a paint brush. Maekawa’s work in the 1960s incorporates hand-cut burlap (hessian) and oil paint, creating a tactile abstract surface, such as in Two Junctions (1962). Part of the so-called “second generation” of Gutai artists, Maekawa took greater interest in adding to the canvas rather than subtracting anything from it. Burlap, an everyday material used to make rice bags, is hand-sewn and torn on the canvas so as to create intricate, undulating shapes. Maekawa pours and splatters paint directly onto his works, thereby drawing a certain spontaneity and coarseness out of his avant-garde creations.

After Jiro Yoshihara’s death in 1972, the Gutai Art Association disbanded and Maekawa took this as an opportunity to forge his own path and seek out his own original artistry. The Osaka-born artist began to incorporate machine processes and new materials such as linen, cotton and paper into his practice. Rather than pleat the fabrics by hand, Maekawa used a sewing machine to fold and inlay his textile-canvases and experimented with spray paint to create a subtle, more delicate effect than his Gutai-era works. Light and shade are produced by materials interacting with one and another and one gets a sense of depth, not from the layering of material, but from the fabrics themselves. Maekawa’s aesthetic assumes a meditative delicacy based on the works’ vibrant colours and material properties.

Since his first solo show in 1963, Maekawa was included in every Gutai exhibition, showing widely within Japan and later internationally. Recently, his work has been featured in Beyond Matter at the Gagosian Gallery in San Francisco (2017); presented by the Lévy Gorvy

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Tsuyoshi Maekawa, Untitled, 1975

Gallery at the Saatchi Salon, London (2017); featured in the exhibition Intuition at Palazzo Fortuny in Venice; featured in the exhibition Gutai: Splendid Playground, Guggenheim, New York (2013); Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Antwerp (2016; 2014); ArtCourt Gallery, Osaka (2013); The National Art Centre, Tokyo (2012), and the Stedelijk Museum (2011). His work is held in public collections such as the following: Tate Modern, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; The National Museum of Art, Osaka; The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; M+ Gallery, Hong Kong; Long Museum, Shanghai; Art Institute of Chicago (AIC), Chicago.

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